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Hand Sanitizer Alert Email

by Brett M. Christensen

Email forward claims that a four-year-old child became dangerously drunk and required hospitalization after licking Hand Sanitizer from her hands.


FW: Hand Sanitizer Alert

Yesterday, my youngest daughter, Halle, who is 4, was rushed to the emergency room by her father for being severely lethargic and incoherent. He was called to her school by the school secretary for being “very VERY sick.”

He told me that when he arrived, Halle was barely sitting in the chair. She couldn’t hold her own head up and when he looked into her eyes, she couldn’t focus them. He immediately scooped her up and rushed her to the ER, and then called me.

When we got there, they ran blood test after blood test and did x-rays, every test imaginable. Her white blood cell count was normal, nothing was out of the ordinary. The ER doctor told us that he had done everything that he could do so he was sending her to Saint Francis for further tests.

Right when we were leaving in the ambulance, her teacher came to the ER and, after questioning Halle’s classmates, we found out that she had licked hand sanitizer off her hand.

Hand sanitizer, of all things.

But it makes sense. These days they have all kinds of different scents and when you have a curious child, they are going to put all kinds of things into their mouths.

When we arrived at Saint Francis, we told the ER doctor there to check her blood alcohol level, and yes we did get weird looks, but they did it.

The results showed her blood alcohol level was 85% — six hours after we first took her. There’s no telling what it would have been if we would have requested it at the first ER.

Since then, her school and a few surrounding schools have taken this out of the classrooms of all the lower grade classes, but what’s to stop middle and high schoolers from ingesting the stuff?

After doing research on the internet, we have found out that it only takes 3 squirts of the stuff to be fatal in a toddler. For her blood alcohol level to be so high was to compare someone her size to drinking something 120 proof. So please PLEASE don’t disregard this because I don’t ever want anyone else to go through what my family and I have gone through.

Please send this to everyone you know who has children or are going to be having children. It doesn’t matter what age.

Detailed Analysis:
This email forward warns of the danger to children posed by consuming alcohol-based hand sanitizer and cites the case of a four-year-old girl who became very ill after licking sanitizer off her hands.

The information in the message is basically true*. According to a May 14 2007 Fox23 News report, four-year-old Halle Butler of Okmulgee, Oklahoma became very ill after eating hand sanitizer. Halle’s pre-kindergarten teacher applied hand sanitizer to the child’s hands before she ate lunch. However, Halle apparently licked the sanitizer off her hands rather than rubbing it in. The child soon became ill and was rushed to hospital where she showed signs of intense intoxication. Typical hand sanitizer contains 62-percent alcohol, significantly more than most hard liquor. Even a small amount would therefore be enough to make a small child drunk or ill. Thankfully, the child recovered after the alcohol left her system and is now doing well.

In the wake of this incident, Halle’s parents are trying to raise awareness of the potential danger of hand sanitizers in the hope that similar events can be prevented. The school where the incident occurred has now stopped using hand sanitizers.

Halle’s is not the only case of hand sanitizer poisoning reported. In another incident in San Diego, a teacher became ill after a 7th grade student spiked his drink with hand sanitizer. In other cases adults, including a prison inmate, have become ill after deliberately drinking hand sanitizer to get drunk.

Parents and those who work with children or other “at-risk” groups such as prison inmates should be vigilant when hand sanitizers are being used. Children should be strictly supervised when using such products. As the email notes, young children are apt to taste substances that older children and adults would never consider eating.

However, while the danger is real, hand sanitizers are not inherently dangerous if they are used as directed by their manufacturers. Also, it should be noted that, when used correctly, hand sanitizers can effectively reduce the spread of gastrointestinal and other illnesses. Therefore, as long as young children are carefully monitored when using hand sanitizers, their use in schools may be beneficial to students and the wider community as a whole.

* Note: The claim in the message that the child’s blood alcohol level was 85% is obviously incorrect – levels of more than 0.45% are almost always fatal – but this is likely to be simply an error and may have been intended to read “.085%”.

Last updated: May 2007
First published: May 2007
By Brett M. Christensen
About Hoax-Slayer

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